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New York, NY
PK - 12
Class Size:
Less than 10
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  • Pictures of animals, stuffed animals
  • Pictures of owls
  • Pinto beans
  • Lima beans
  • Rice
  • plastic spoons (1 per pair of students)
  • pairs of chopsticks (1 per pair of students)
  • plastic knives (1 per pair of students)
  • plastic bags for food (2 per pair of students)
  • small paper cups (1 per pair of students)
  • read-aloud book about owls (Owls [] by Gail Gibbons)
  • Animal Web (PDF)
  • Adaptation Activity Worksheet (PDF)


Students will demonstrate an understanding of animal adaptations by comparing and analyzing various adaptations.

Resource Instructions

   Day 1 - introduction to adaptations

  1. Divide your class into pairs.
  2. Show a photo of an animal using a picture, book, Internet, or show a stuffed animal. (If you have an actual preserved animal that works great.)
  3. Ask students to describe what the animal looks like.
  4. Draw an animal adaptation web on the board and fill in student responses.
  5. Explain that adaptations are characteristics or traits that help the animal survive in its environment.
  6. Show various photos of animals and ask for examples of adaptations.
  7. Pass out photos of animals to pairs of students.
  8. Students complete an animal adaptation web and share out with the class.
Day 2 - adaptation activity
  1. Review the definition of adaptations.
  2. Read Owls by Gail Gibbons to introduce owls to students.
  3. Show pictures of owls and ask for examples of adaptations.
  4. Lead a discussion by asking how a beak is an adaptation.
  5. Explain that beaks are shaped differently to adapt to the type of food the animal eats.
  6. Students will be working with three different shaped beaks: plastic knives, chopsticks, and plastic spoons.
  7. Each pair of students receives: 1 bag rice, 1 bag beans, 1 small paper cup, 1 plastic knife, 1 plastic spoon, and 1 pair of chopsticks.
  8. Give the students 30 sec to collect the "food" into the paper cup beginning with the plastic knife and rice. The partner counts the rice as it is deposited into the "mouth" (the paper cup) using the plastic knife.
  9. Students record their food count on the worksheet.
  10. Partners switch and start the 30-second timer again.
  11. Students record their food count on the worksheet.
  12. Now students switch beaks and use the plastic spoon to collect the rice.
  13. Continue switching beaks and food until all data has been collected.
  14. Provide several minutes for partners to analyze the data after all the beaks and food have been tested.
  15. Discuss the findings together as a class.


  1. Students can create a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast adaptations of animals. They can write a paragraph comparing and contrasting information.
  2. Students create a fictional animal with adaptations from various animals. They cut out body parts from animal pictures and glue them together. Students write a paragraph or story describing the environment the fictional animal lives in related to the adaptations it has.
  3. Invite a local wildlife expert as a guest speaker to discuss owls with the students. For a small donation, educators will bring an owl to the classroom. (Southern California, please contact [])


  1. Students may be assessed through participation in discussion of adaptations.
  2. Student understanding is assessed with completion of adaptation web.
  3. At the end of the lesson, assess students by showing them a photo of an animal that has not been discussed. Students must individually record five adaptations of the animal for assessment.

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